Survey reveals language a Net hurdle

Australian businesses may be eagerly trying their hands at online commerce, but many are locking out the potential of reaching a true global audience because they are not properly dealing with languages other than English.

A survey, "Global Reach Statistics", jointly conducted by translation software specialist WorldLingo and researcher IDC, showed that just under 90 per cent of the world's leading companies respond incorrectly or not at all to foreign language mail enquiries.

Australian companies surveyed - including the Commonwealth Bank, BHP, News Corp, and Telstra - performed worse than other nations, with the survey revealing none of the above companies responded to such requests. On the other hand, 25 per cent of French companies made an effort to respond, while the US and the UK had response rates of 8 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

According to IDC, potential customers are four times more likely to make a purchase on the Internet if a company communicates with them in their native language.

One of the ways to overcome this barrier is through translation software, with a multitude of companies offering such services. However, while translation software may currently be used by individuals, the uptake does not appear to be the same in the business community.

"It is hard to gauge how many Australian companies are aware of translation software," said WorldLingo Australia managing director Alastair Lindsay.

"Not many of the companies surveyed have localised Web sites [Web sites translated into foreign languages], therefore they seem to be unaware of the need to make all Web communication multilingual."

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